Pioglitazone induces apoptosis of macrophages in human adipose tissue

Angela M. Bodles, Vijayalakshmi Varma, Aiwei Yao-Borengasser, Bounleut Phanavanh, Charlotte A. Peterson, Robert E. McGehee, Neda Rasouli, Martin Wabitsch, Philip A. Kern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus are associated with an increased number of macrophage cells that infiltrate white adipose tissue (WAT). Previously, we demonstrated that the treatment of subjects with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) with the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) agonist pioglitazone resulted in a decrease in macrophage number in adipose tissue. Here, adipose tissue samples from IGT subjects treated with pioglitazone were examined for apoptosis with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining. TUNEL-positive cells were identified, and there was a significant 42% increase in TUNEL-positive cells following pioglitazone treatment. Overlay experiments with anti-CD68 antibody demonstrated that most of theTUNEL-positive cellsweremacrophages.To determine whether macrophage apoptosis was a direct or indirect effect of pioglitazone treatment, human THP1 cells were treated with pioglitazone in vitro, demonstrating increased TUNEL staining in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Furthermore, the appearance of the active proteolytic subunits of caspase-3 and caspase-9 were detected in cell lysate from THP1 cells and also increased in a dose- and time-dependent manner following pioglitazone treatment. Pretreatment with a PPARγ inhibitor, GW9662, prevented pioglitazone induction of the apoptotic pathway in THP1 cells. Differentiated human adipocytes did not show any significant increase in apoptosis after treatment in vitro with piolgitazone. These findings indicate that PPARγ has distinct functions in different cell types in WAT, such that pioglitazone reduces macrophage infiltration by inducing apoptotic cell death specifically in macrophages through PPARγ activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2080-2088
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2006


  • Diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • PPARγ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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